Twilight Zone – Dealer’s Choice (11/15/85)

I wonder what it was like to watch this series every week in 1985.  Was there a hopefulness that it might be a worthy successor to the 1960s classic?  Were people satisfied with the first episode featuring Shatterday and A Little Piece and Quiet?  They were both pretty strong, high-concept segments.  Yeah, I’ll tune again next week.

Wordplay was another fun, high-concept outing.  Chameleon didn’t have much of a story, but was enjoyable thanks to the performances and the NASA setting.  The ending was a little underwhelming.  Still, maybe they found a way to make a TZ for the 1980s.  I’ll give it another chance next week, if I’m home.

After that, with a few notable exceptions, the new TZ produced too many maudlin soap opera segments and short one-joke outings with no depth or arc.  Gone was the grit, irony and cosmic comeuppance of the original.  A good twist seemed to have become as passe as plot in a literature or skill in art.

I have a feeling this episode might have been the last stop for a lot of viewers.  After the insufferable James Coco, and then the tedious Bradbury monologues tonight, maybe turning over to catch the last half of Knight Rider seemed like a reasonable move.

Barney Martin (Jerry Seinfeld’s TV father), Garrett Morris (SNL), M. Emmett Walsh (everything), Morgan Freeman (everything else) and world’s greatest actor Dan Hedaya [1] are gathered for a poker game.

Hedaya always seems to win with a hand containing three sixes.  They ID him as the devil.  There is a showdown.  The guys try to trick him, but he tricks them.  They bust him but he is a real sport, creating sandwiches and beer for them.  The end.

No, that’s really it.

I assume this was to be the meaty segment of the episode.  It was the longest segment at 22 minutes. It contained a cast that in 1985 were probably all familiar faces. Just, nothing happens.

Walsh is clueless as his characters often are.  Martin seems to be tzdealerschoice15playing a mentally challenged man — wait, are they going to keep the money they win from him?  He should be playing for cigarettes with Martini and Cheswick. Morris has a knack for putting the wrong inflection on just about every word he speaks.  Freeman is mostly the voice — literally — of reason. Tragically, the great Dan Hedaya is very subdued here.

Strangely, I must admit the 22 minutes flew by faster than did the first much two shorter segments.  It must have been the actors, because there was certainly nothing in the script to captivate me.  It is not tense or suspenseful.  Despite the comedic talent, it isn’t really even particularly played for laughs.

As Homer Simpson once said, “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.”  Except not much happened.

I rate it a flush, and not in the good way.


  • [1] Only a slight exaggeration — he is usually a hoot.  How can there be no decent clips of him in Cheers on YouTube?

Twilight Zone – The Burning Man (11/15/85)

tzburningman01In 1936, Doug and his Aunt Neva are driving through the country.  An old man in a dirty white suit runs into the road and flags them down.  He climbs into the car without an invitation and tells Neva to drive off because the sun is after them.

He tells her that on days like today, it feels like the sun is going to split you wide open.  He says Lucifer was born on a day like this.

“Ain’t this the year when the 17 year locusts are supposed to come back?” he asks.  “If there can be 17 year locusts then why not 17 year people?”  This piques Doug’s interest for some reason.  The old man continues, “Sure, why not 24 year people or 57 year old people?”

Somehow this leads him to ask, “Who’s to say there ain’t genetic evil in the world?”  The car blows a tire and the man allows the old woman to change the tire herself, answering his own question.  He tells Doug to imagine that on a hot day like this, an ornery 57 [1] year man could be baked right out of the dried mud and arise.  That evening he would crack open like a snap bean and a new young human would emerge.

“I think I’ll eat me some Summer, boy.  Look at them trees, ain’t they a whole dinner?  And that grass down there, by golly there’s a feast.  Them sunflowers, there’s breakfast.  Tar-paper on top of that house, there’s lunch.  And Jehoshaphat, that lake down the road, that’s dinner wine.  Drink it all up til the bottom dries up and splits wide open.”

At this point, I think they need AA more than AAA.  Neva finishes changing the tire and inexplicably doesn’t leave the crazy bastard behind.

tzburningman05Doug says he is thirsty and the old man says, “Thirst don’t describe the state of a man who’s been waiting in the hot mud 50 years [2] and is born but to die in one day.  Not only thirst, but hunger!”  C’mon, you just had some tar-paper!

He yammers on — and by he I mean Bradbury — about eating all the cats in the county. [3]  When he finally, inevitably gets around to talking about eating people, Neva slams on the brakes and orders him out of the car.

Proving that he is not the only long-winded son-of-a-bitch in the car, she rants, “I got a load of bibles in the back, a pistol with silver bullets here under the steering wheel, I got a box of crucifixes under the seat, a wooden stake taped to the axle, and a hammer in the glove-box.  I got holy water in the radiator filled early this morning from three churches on the way.  Now out!”  And by she, I mean Bradbury.

They leave the old man literally in their dust.  Soon they arrive at a lake.  Whether this is their destination or just a chance to cool off, I don’t know.  God forbid we get 5 seconds of exposition between the monologues.  I guess a refreshing minute at the lake was the point of their drive.  Hearing some locusts, Doug gets the willies and asks if there is another road back to town.

tzburningman20They see a little boy in a clean white suit in the road.  Neva offers to drive him home.  After it gets dark, he leans in from the back seat and whispers to Neva, “Have you ever wondered if there is such a thing as genetic evil in the world?”  The car stalls, the lights dim, then nothing. We couldn’t at least get a scream?  I think we deserve that.

This was like a flashback to Ray Bradbury Theater — not much of a story, monologues better-suited to the printed page, set when times were simple and presidential candidates weren’t, and an unsatisfying ending. Unfortunately an average episode of Ray Bradbury Theater equals a disappointment from TZ.

To be fair, Roberts Blossom as the old man delivers Bradbury’s poetic words as well as anyone on RBT.  And Danny Cooksey’s smile at the end is worth the price of admission.  As I seem to say for every segment — it’s OK, just not what I’m looking for from a Twilight Zone reboot.


  • [1] 47 year man in the short story.
  • [2] 30 years in the short story.
  • [3] Country in the short story.
  • The episode closely tracks with the short story, except for the flat tire.  Much of the dialogue is verbatim from the story.
  • TZ Legacy:  Sadly, none.
  • Roberts Blossom will show up in Amazing Stories if I last that long.

Twilight Zone – Act Break (11/15/85)

tzactbreak12TZ Legacy:  I have to move this to the top section because I’m not sure I can last to the bottom section.

Nutshell:  In The Bard, an hour-long 4th season TZ episode, insufferable man-child Julius Moomer summons the ghost of William Shakespeare to be his co-writer.  In this 14-minute-but feels-like-an-hour episode, insufferable man-child Maury Winkler makes an imprecise wish and ends up as William Shakespeare’s co-writer.

Uber-annoying James Coco (Winkler) is pursued down a busy city street by equally annoying but at least amusing Avery Schreiber. [1]  Winkler is a writer of failed plays and rent checks.  Schreiber, his fish-monging landlord, not unreasonably, would like his rent paid with a boffo check.  Less NSF, more SRO.

Coco is working on a play with his partner Harry.  They have partnered up on 17 plays in 22 years, but somehow success has eluded them.  Winkler says all he wants is “an office that doesn’t smell like low tide.”  A good line made better by the fact that his landlord actually is a fish-monger.

tzactbreak15As Harry is dictating a death scene to Winkler, he begins having chest pains.  For some reason, he continues dictating even as he is clutching his heart (but sometimes, his throat).  This is not played for laughs like Winkler misinterprets his pain; it is just pointless.  They are going for a fun romp here, though, so I can live with it.  Unfortunately, while Bob Dishy as Harry does play it as broad comedy, James Coco plays the scene like an Adderall-abusing chimp in an elementary school play.  No expression is too tortured, no movement is too exaggerated, no line-reading is too hammy, and for some reason, he seems to be typing with one hand like Edmond Valier.[2]

Harry falls to the ground.  He pulls an amulet out of his ass — thankfully figuratively, not literally — and tells Winkler to make a wish for him to survive.  Seems the amulet is only good for one wish per customer, and Harry squandered his wish to survive a plane crash in the Burmese Jungle.  Instead, Winkler dawdles until Harry croaks and then wishes for “a new partner, the best playwright ever.”

tzactbreak26Winkler is shocked to find himself transported to the home of William Shakespeare. [3]  Shakespeare is having a little writer’s block, and Winkler suggests a play called Hamlet.  There is some amusing business by Shakespeare hearing this wrong as Hamnet and being baffled.  The gag is not explained, but makes me curious:  Did viewers back then know Shakespeare had a son named Hamnet?  Was the writer giving the audience that much credit?  That might be the most unbelievable thing in this episode.

Winkler tells Shakespeare the story of Hamlet.  Shakespeare then plagiarizes that and other plays.  Not all that far off from what I’ve heard.  As the follow-up to Hamlet was Troilus and Cressida, maybe this was not such a great partnership for Shakespeare. [4]

If you can tolerate James Coco, there is a lot to like here.  Avery Schreiber was always a hoot, Bob Dishy plays it perfectly, and there are some genuine laughs in the script. For me, the whole production is torpedoed by Coco, though.  Your mileage may vary.


  • [1] Schreiber, German for writer, would have been an appropriate character name for Coco.
  • [2] The noted masturbater.  I mean, he masturbated a lot.
  • [3] Dishy also portrays Shakespeare.  I’m not sure the point of that, but he plays both parts much better than Coco.
  • [4] It appears they wisely set aside T&C to write Twelfth Night.
  • Title Analysis:  I don’t think a writing partnership is considered an act, but close enough.
  • Episode schreiber Haskell Barkin had no writing credits on IMDb until he was 43 years old.

Science Fiction Theatre – Time is Just a Place (04/16/55)

sfttimeisjust12After getting on my good side by starting off with old Air Force footage last week, SFT is going back to the well with more footage.  It is just a brief shot, though, and followed up by a picture of a busy highway and a modern home.  The theme is speed, uninterrupted journeys and the convenience of modern gadgets.

Al Brown gets a call telling him his test flight will not be ready until Monday.  I guess one of those modern conveniences is not a dishwasher as his wife Nell is up to her elbows. She gives him a honey-do list of chores and maintenance to do around the house before risking his life for his country.

They see their new neighbor pull into his driveway and look around suspiciously before darting into the house.  Nell had tried ringing their bell a few days early, but got no response other than some noises inside.  Nell suggests they might be criminals, but Al suggests maybe they are newlyweds and the wife was getting her bell rung.

sfttimeisjust03Things get serious when electrical interference from the neighbor’s house disrupts Al’s TV picture.  Al walks next door and he also gets no response from ringing the bell.  Unlike almost every show I’ve watched for this blog, he does not open the door and waltz in uninvited.  This was the 50’s when people had manners and a sense of neighborliness and propriety.  So he peeks in the window.  To his surprise — and mine! — he sees a Roomba scooting around the floor.

The neighbor comes out and busts Al.  He tells him that the device is a “sonic broom” — so it really is a Roomba!  Holy crap, and it has a remote control!  His neighbor Ted tells him, “The pressure of the noise under the hemisphere disintegrates the refuse.”  A feature I will expect to be in the next model.  What a forward-looking series.

The next day, Al is fooling around in his garage and hears Ted trying to start his car.  He offers to help and has Ted pop the hood.  Al asks for a flashlight and Ted’s wife Ann appears with one 2 seconds later.  Before Al can meet her, she rushes back inside.  Al does whatever it is that guys do and the car starts.  Al can’t wait to tell Nell about the inventor who can’t fix a car, and his mind-reading wife.

sfttimeisjust16Going downstairs to change a fuse, Al realizes he has hung on to Ted’s flashlight.  He figures this out when it projects a light that gives him x-ray vision.  He is able to see through the wall, and then his wife’s hand.  Al tries to take the flashlight apart, but it is sealed up tighter than an iPad.  He is again busted by Ted who demands his flashlight back.  Ted has a lot of suspicious questions about the local power grid where Al’s airplane manufacturing plant draws its power, how there radar is powered, and what they do in case of power failure.

Al shows him the wind tunnel in his garage.  Wait, what?  He cranks it up and demon-strates to Ted his problem that aircraft melt when they go faster than sound.  This is a little confusing as the sound barrier was broken 8 years earlier.  Al is searching for an alloy that, under pressure, becomes cold instead of hot.  Ted blurts out “corbolite” and bolts out.

That night, the two couples have dinner.  Ted is concerned the world is getting over-mechanized, too reliant on gadgets.  Al fears an anti-science backlash.  Ted tells him about a sci-fi story he is thinking of writing.  As he just gets the part about a time machine, a storm blows up and the lights flicker, which seems very troubling to Ted.

sfttimeisjust24He continues his story about people using the machines to go back to simpler times.  As people fled the oppressive future, the government outlawed time travel.  They even sent out Timecops to hunt down the fugitives.  Large power grids and radar are able to hide the refugees.  Say, you don’t think . . .

That night, Al is spending a typical 1950s night in bed with his wife — they are in more clothes than I wear to work, in separate beds, and Al is smoking.  They hear a loud noise and go to Ted & Ann’s house.  They are gone and their future toys have been smashed.

A vast improvement over last week.


  • Meh.

Outer Limits – Bits of Love (01/19/97)

olbitsoflove09Aidan Hunter had the resources and foresight to build an underground bunker to survive whatever apocalypse occurred.  He has electricity, fresh air, food, booze, a nice home, and the scientific know-how to program holograms. Inexplicably, he has program-med most of these avatars to be his family; and also to continue using the name Aidan.

As we open, Aidan is being awakened by his mother — this is a 36 year old man, by the way.  She open the curtains, and says, “Hey sleepyhead.  What are you going to do, stay in bed all day?”  Wouldn’t this have gotten old during the design phase, or when he was 13?  He goes into the kitchen to see his 32 year old brother Griff in tight shorts and a wife-beater, stretching with his foot on the counter.  His full name should be Griff Loman Hunter.

Aidan examines a painting he has been working on.  He commands all his holographic pals to appear.  There’s his mother, his bath-robed father has joined them, here’s Griff still in his workout clothes, and Natasha Henstridge.  Wait, what?  Why didn’t he just make four of her?  After they critique his painting, Aidan sends them back into the computer.  All except Emma (Henstridge).

For entertainment that night, Aidan programs up a double-date for he and his cartoon brother.  Aidan is wearing some sort of black sleeveless scuba-looking thing.  His holographic brother appears to be wearing a jacket over his wife-beater. If this is a sly indication that his clothing can only be overlayed onto his basic template like a paper doll — bravo!

Sadly, the girls have no substance; also, they are not solid.  After a few dances, though, he takes one (only one?) to his swinging bachelor-pod.  He has designed the device to feed his skin’s sensors so that it is just like having a beautiful live girl; but I notice the girls don’t do any talking in there.

He decides that Emma is more real than the other pseudo-girls.  She would even make a perfect model.  For one thing, she is beautiful.  For another, she can sit for hours and not move a micron.  In fact, she can even look like a piece a cardboard for some shots.  After the painting is done, they go for a spin in the bachelor-pod.  Since Emma is tied into the server, she is able to mentally hit the snooze alarm so they aren’t stopped for using too much power.

Emma begins taking things a little too seriously.  The rest of Aidan’s fake family take her side.  Emma is the computer’s operating system, so they want to protect her.  Emma begins to think she is real and tells Aidan she loves him.  Aidan says, “Emma, you’re not here to love me.  You’re here to serve me.”  Oh shit!

olbitsoflove27When Aidan conjures up another girl to take into the pod, Emma takes over the form of the fantasy girl.  To really get on Aidan’s good side, Emma would have shown up in addition to, not in place of the first girl.  WTH, is there a weight limit on that ride? [1]

Emma finally resorts to the nuclear option and says she is pregnant.  That’s it, Aidan goes Dave Bowman on her fine, fine ass and starts destroying circuit cards.  You can’t beat the house, though, and Emma prevails in a satisfying way.

The episode could get a little tedious at times.  Also, there more shots of a sweaty post-coital Aidan than I really needed.  However AI run amok, an apocalypse and not-at-all gratuitous nudity redeem it.

50/64 bits.


  • [1] Well, per-girl obviously, but you know what I mean.
  • Aidan’s mother is played by Dana Sculley’s mother, Sheila Larkin.
  • Griff suggests the music be changed to Feral Klansmen or Venereal Pink.